I had one of the best customer experiences of my life recently. It was an experience that left me feeling humbled, amazed and so wonderfully satisfied I had made a decision to shop locally.

First, here is a disclaimer, because I want my intentions and feelings on the subject to be transparent. I work for a national corporation (Townsquare Media) and I shop with national corporations and websites. This blog does not imply that I have any problem with national or even international commerce. For example, I can’t imagine the Wozniak family without a Subaru, because my Subaru has been the best car I’ve ever owned. I love Walmart and Target not just for their prices, but because I love being in what feels like a small city of consumerism. For me, that is a lot of fun. Also, big box stores bring jobs to the area.

When shopping for almost anything, though,  I think it is important to do some research to find a comparable local product or vendor. Whether that’s checking with a locally owned Ace Hardware instead of a big box store, or seeing if the big box store can top the low prices found on the internet because of the aforementioned jobs the big box stores bring to the area, a little research is likely to help you find a better price, better service and the good feeling of knowing that you did your part to bolster the area’s economy.

That said, I run an event and mobile DJ service, and as such, I buy a lot of sound equipment. When entering the business I did exhaustive research to find the best prices possible on all my gear. I am an expert at announcements and what music to play when. I am not an expert on what is the most reliable, best priced equipment. So, I decided to go to Spotlight Music in Fort Collins to ask them what speakers they thought would be the best for me. That was the one of the best decisions I have made in my professional life.

I have bought many pieces of equipment from Spotlight and in most cases, they actually beat the internet's prices. It’s the whole ‘wholesale’ deal. While the internet allows many of us to feel like we are buying wholesale, it is still the old school local dealers that actually enjoy the ‘from the factory’ prices. Since I need guidance in what I’m buying, it is incredible to be able to have experts to help me pick out gear and get great prices on them.

But beyond this, because I have formed a relationship with them, they have gone way above and far beyond what any dot com could do, and probably beyond what the national chains could offer.

I was recently victim of a burglary that cleared out all my DJ gear. Before you start feeling bad for me about the burglary, don't! The Grinch can steal the Christmas presents, but he cannot steal Christmas. Any bozo can buy speakers and call themselves a DJ. What counts in Paul Wozniak Productions can't be stolen. Click to 5:33 in this video to see how the Who's in Whoville and I share sentiments...

Anyway, the day that happened, I had a wedding to do in two weeks. I had nothing. No speakers, sound boards or microphones. Since I am a regular customer of Spotlight, they let me use one of their house systems for free until my order of new equipment could make it to Fort Collins. That’s spectacular.

What is beyond spectacular is this. I was at my wedding this weekend at Ptarmigan Country Club. I was all set up with brand new equipment. I’m talking new board, new wires, new speakers, new microphones, everything on its first use (note to self, test your equipment, even if it is new!!). I was very excited to let the new speakers off the chain and blast out some great dance music. I turned on the system as the guests milled into the room, and…something sounds…wrong. The music was doing a little fade out, and fade back in kind of thing, and at first I couldn’t tell if it was my imagination or not. No, this was real. It sounded like there was some kind of internal power protection issue happening from playing the music too loud, but it wasn’t too loud. It was cocktail hour volume and I even turned it down to try to remedy the problem. No luck. Sam Cooke was fading out, fading back in. This was not what my clients were paying me for.

Panic reared its ugly head, I broke into a full body sweat, and I yanked out my cell phone. Dialed Spotlight. Tory answered. You may not know Tory, but the point is I do, and his was the voice I needed to hear. He could tell by my voice that I needed help and I needed it now. After some discussion, we figured there must be something wrong with the brand new mixing board (rare, but it happens), and he assured me that he was on his way with backups. The cavalry was on the way. Wow. Try getting that from a dot com, or a national chain. I don’t think it will happen.

Within an hour and without skipping too many beats, my system was rocking and rolling and I was left feeling like the luckiest individual in Northern Colorado (which some may argue I am:). What I expected when I placed that phone call was advice, something I’d overlooked, anything to help me to solve the problem. What I received was the best piece of customer service in the history of history.

While Spotlight pretty much insured that I would stay their loyal customer for life after my gear was stolen and they let me use a system for free, this just solidified it. And it also made me realize that while the internet is an incredibly wonderful thing, local community is still better and should be embraced by all of us.

Some items aren’t available locally, especially since we are not in them midst of a major metro area. But when they are, at least give them a look. You’re supporting your neighbors, your friends, your family and yourself.

Kudos, Spotlight Music, you’ve got it going on.